Too many meetings and too many emails? You are not alone. These are by far the most common challenges that my executive-level clients face. They are not BIG problems so they often go unaddressed. However, the overflowing Inbox and Agenda eat away at your energy, well-being, and motivation.
And this seems to be a common denominator pain point for leadership in any organization. So, I have spent a lot of time thinking about why it occurs. My conclusion is that it is about inefficient, absent, or unaligned decision-making processes. Much of the email traffic and meetings are to create alignment, get permission, and of course gaining support/security (also known as C.Y. A.) that eventually lead to a decision. So how could this be more efficient?
1. As a team, spend less time talking about each individual decision. Instead spend more time talking about what is important to you about the decisions that are made
Ask questions such as; Where are we headed? What is our goal? What is important to us in how we reach that goal? Otherwise known as values. If you are completely aligned about what is important to you as a team, when one individual makes a decision, it is much more likely that that decision would reflect what all the others would find important too. This of course requires that you and all team members are open and honest (read: trusting) with what you find important. Be willing to be flexible to adapt to what the others find important and let go of some of the less important aspects on your list. At the end of the day, decisions will be made much faster, requiring fewer meetings.
2. Start a trend – dare not to reply
The other thing that creates email? Emails!! Have you ever noticed that the more time you spend sending emails, the more emails you get back? And vice versa, if you stay away from the Inbox for more than a week, the email traffic starts to slow down? That is because everyone feels the need to reply to everything. Be the daring one who ends the email chain. And if a discussion is necessary, pick up the phone and reply with a call. I know people don’t call each other anymore. Have you noticed that the decline in calling each other over the years is correlated with the increase in emails over the years? Back in the fax days, you had to call each other to discuss things because faxes cost money per page to send. Too bad emails don’t cost something to send. Then you would be more thoughtful about how many you generate!
3. Write your emails in a way that does not require a response
Instead of saying “How are you?”, write “I hope this message finds you well.” Instead of saying, “Please give me feedback on the following:”, say “Let me know if you have any concerns about the following:”. Instead of asking “What do you suggest?”, write “Here’s what I propose… Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.”
Concerned that the person won’t act on your email unless you get a response? Then it is time to work on your trust, not write another email.
The main message is: you have some power over how many emails you receive. These three simple actions can help you reduce your email and meeting overload, so you can spend more time on strategy, people development, and hopefully a little self-care, too!